Men’s soccer shines during Senior Weekend, upsets top-ranked Chicago

Sanjay Annigeri, Staff Reporter

The Case Western Reserve University men’s soccer team amassed their best weekend this season on Oct. 12-14, with two victories against University Athletic Association (UAA) opponents.

The team edged out Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) in a tight 1-0 match and took down the then-No. 1 ranked University of Chicago, ending their 11-game winning streak. The two wins improved the team’s record to 11-2-1 for the season, bringing them two points behind Chicago in conference standings.

There was a tense atmosphere at the beginning of the match against WashU, as both teams fought hard for possession and scoring opportunities. In the 27th minute, third-year midfielder Garrett Winter found third-year forward Zachary Senft with a beautiful pass through two defenders while fending off a defender marking him. The opposing keeper, in an attempt to snatch possession away from Senft, fell and Senft’s shot bounced off the post as he was too far on the left side. Fourth-year forward Alex Besl connected on the rebound in the middle of the box and easily drilled the shot in goal. The team embraced to celebrate a group effort for the first and only goal of the game.

Although WashU led in total shots attempted 11-9, the Spartan’s formidable backline altered the shots so that only three were on-goal. In the second half, the WashU Bears played more aggressively to try to even the score, but the Spartan defense was able to withstand their attack. First-year goalkeeper Charlie Fink had three saves with a clutch block in the last two minutes of the game to prevent overtime.

The team’s performance peaked after taking down Chicago. The Spartans started the game well with a corner finding second-year defenseman Nathan Ekberg for a header in the eighth minute, but the opposing goalie managed to save it. For the next 20 minutes of the game, the Maroons’ strong defense allowed their offense to keep possession of the ball and take eight shots in that time span.

After the scoreless first half, Besl wrestled past a defender and dropped the ball off to Senft at the middle of the 20-yard line. Taking the split second open opportunity, Senft launched a long, high-arching shot over the flailing arms of the jumping keeper, taking both the opposing defense and the commentator by surprise. The team again celebrated in a group hug as Senft flexed his muscles towards the Maroons. At the 63rd minute, the Spartans committed a foul in the goal box, allowing Chicago to tie the game with a free kick. However, with eight minutes left in the game, Besl was fouled in the 18-yard box and the Spartans struck back with their own free kick. Winter scored the penalty, amassing him seven goals for the season and his third game-winner.

The team’s five fourth-year players, Alex Besl, Brady Daulton, Reed Kurtenbach, Christian Lytle and Josh Wargo, were honored before the Chicago game.

Ekberg commented on the team’s mindset after their two victories. He said, “The team felt really good after the game, we were really proud of ourselves…especially on Senior Weekend as well.”

Senft’s aggressive playmaking earned him the UAA’s Athlete of the Week honors, while Ekberg’s lockdown marking with only one goal allowed from the free kick and long playing time earned him Spartan Club Athlete of the Week.

After their stellar performance, the Spartans rose to the No. 11 ranking on the U.S. Coaches Top 25 Poll. Over Fall Break, the Spartans played their last home game of the season against Westminster College, defeating them 3-1 and improving their record to 12-2-1. The team will look to make a deep run for the UAA Championships, playing against Rochester University on Friday and Emory University on Sunday.